The number of journalists wearing pirith nool these days was on the increase, Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe said.
Addressing a meeting organised by seven media organizations, to pressure the government to repeal the draconian provisions of the revived Press Councils Act, at the J.R. Jayewardene Centre, on Tuesday evening, he said that many journalists were seen wearing pirith nool . `Some have as many as ten pirith nool on their wrists. Obviously, they are seeking protection against human devils, who would harm them for performing their professional duties properl,` the Opposition Leader said.
Wickremesinghe said it was a tragedy that those who protected media freedom were branded as `traitors`, while people who destroyed it were called `patriots.`
Some media personnel, he said, were acting like the `Hero of Verdun`-the late French General Philippe Petain, who was entrusted with the task of stopping the marauding German army. But Petain, whose achievements were rewarded with the posts of Marshal and Chief of State, subsequently conspired with Hitler and gave half of France to Germany.
`Media freedom does not belong to the journalistic fraternity alone, but to all citizens. Suppression of the free flow of news, affects the people s right to information,` Wickremesinghe said. `Therefore, everyone is duty bound to oppose the draconian provisions of the Press Council Act and demand that they be repealed.`
The Opposition Leader said that as a junior lawyer to H. W. Jayewardene and H. L. de Silva in 1972, his first case had been in defence of press freedom and it was under his premiership in 2002, that the criminal defamation law had been repealed.
Following the establishment of the Press Complaints Commission in 2003 Wickremesinghe said he had wanted to repeal the draconian clauses in the Press Council Act, but unfortunately the then President Chandrika Kumaratunga, had taken over three ministries including Media. Subsequently a new government had been elected, he said.